Writing the City

Writing the City The Arts House National Arts Council spacer British Council

The Pilgrims
By KostasIk

About this piece

Joining the city’s Old Monuments Tour had been his wife’s idea; if he had been travelling by himself, Allan would be at the hotel’s bar by now.

The rain was falling on the plastic top of the covered walkway and the guide had stopped briefly to explain what they would be seeing, once they rounded the next corner. She knew how to build up anticipation; she did the same trick before showing them The Last Old-Type Traffic Light and The Last Piece of Rail Track just a few minutes ago. At least they were out of that bloody driverless vehicle that had the ambient temperature of a cryonic chamber. Allan removed an e-cigarette from his shirt-pocket, but before putting it in his mouth he felt his wife’s hand gripping his forearm in near-panic.

‘Are you crazy?’ she asked. ‘You can’t smoke here. They don’t even fine you anymore, it’s straight to the airport and you are barred from re-entering.’

‘No way’, he said with some authority. ‘This is the new type, zero atmospheric residue.’

‘Doesn’t matter’, whispered Beth, ‘all types are banned now; they passed the law back in early twenty-twenty eight’.

The Korean lady in front of them turned and shot them an evil look. She was really making an effort to hear everything the tour guide was saying, even though her G-lenses were picking up and recording both sound and image perfectly. Beth mouthed ‘sorry’ and then gripped Allan’s arm again. Allan winced.

There were only nine people in the group that Tuesday morning and six of them came from some failed Euro state that Allan could not figure. The Korean had told Beth that she was a widow and that her late husband had never wanted to come here with her; and so two weeks after he died and feeling she had mourned him sufficiently, she had taken the fifty-six minute flight to the island. She had used the auto translator to speak with Beth and even though she was an old woman, the English came out in a teenager’s voice.

The rain was coming down harder now, not that it made any difference. The sides of the walkway were covered with one continuous sheet of ultra thin glass, completely invisible to the eye. It almost gave Sebastian Khoo a Nobel Prize six years ago. Allan knew this because the guide had told them so at the beginning. Sara Lee was very proud of her countryman. As she spoke of ‘innovation’ and the fruits of turning the place into a ‘science hub’, Allan was looking at her breasts. He felt aroused. He thought that staying for an extra day after his wife’s departure was a smart thing to do. He would go to the new O-Towers and pick up a girl with breasts like that.

For Beth, this was the best part of the trip. She had written her dissertation on the ever-changing urban environment of the city-state and the effect it had on its neighboring countries in the last decade. She admired the country. She had already followed the virtual tour a few times and had jumped at the opportunity to do it in the flesh. She listened to the guide, adopting a pose of devotion, with hands clasped demurely in front of her, the real one on top of the synthetic, of course.

‘And now, ladies and gentlemen’, Sara Lee said, ‘we are about to see the oldest building in the entire island. It is actually an apartment block and it was chosen for preservation over all other contenders during the urban redesign of twenty-forty.’

They all followed the young girl and the highlight of the tour came into view. It was about a hundred yards ahead of them, past the plaza.

‘It’s been standing here, defying all odds, since 1994’ said Sara with enthusiasm and they all started clapping.

October 28, 2013

One Response to “The Pilgrims”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.